ALMOST 500 extra patients were admitted to hospital every week at a Southampton hospital last year compared to five years ago, figures reveal.

NHS Digital data shows 159,925 patients were admitted to the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) in 2018-19, 24,249 more than during 2014-15.

This is the equivalent of 466 extra patients every week.

Across England, hospitals had to deal with almost 24,000 additional admissions every week last year compared to 2014-15.

Over the course of the year, there was an eight per cent increase on people seen by staff at a total of 17.1 million patients.

Paula Head, chief executive of UHS, said: “There are many factors contributing to this including the growing population – particularly older people with increasingly complex medical needs – the development of new treatments and techniques, the expansion of specialist services and the transfer of services to us from other providers.

“This undoubtedly brings additional pressures, not just through the volume of patients requiring treatment but also in terms of ensuring we recruit new staff to keep pace with these changes, maintain our estates and facilities and protect the welfare of our current workforce.

“We are seeing is firstly an opportunity to highlight how immensely proud we are of our staff and their commitment to delivering the highest standards of care to patients every day despite this intensity.

“This, combined with investments such as the expansion of our general intensive care, emergency department and digital solutions, along with improved collaboration with our partners to alleviate delays to patient discharges and access to care in the community are some of the steps helping us to navigate through this challenging period.”

The biggest increase at the UHS was among elective admissions – those arranged in advance – which rose by 29 per cent over the five-year period.

Average waiting times faced by patients across the country for an elective admission were a week longer in 2018-19, rising to 61 days.

At the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, average waits increased from 60 to 64 days.

Dr Rob Harwood, consultants committee chair at the British Medical Association, said underfunding, a lack of beds and chronic staff shortages meant doctors and other NHS staff were being placed under undue pressure.

He said: "The Government must get a grip of this crisis, and though MPs have promised more funding, the BMA has been clear that the money pledged will not be enough to make up for years of underinvestment."

The organisation called for 10,000 more beds to ease pressure on frontline services, as well as a 4.1 per cent annual funding increase.